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Blending Historical Fiction with Personal Narrative

Tuesdays, 4 weeks
Sep 12
Oct 3
1:00 - 3:00 PM CT
Elizabeth Brogden
Online via Zoom
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An exciting new literary trend is blurring the long-held distinction between biography and memoir, as writers play with elements of autofiction and historical novel in ways that open up fresh prospects for the field of life writing.

In this 4-week course, we will consider the emergent genre of "para-vital" writing: the telling of another's story in order to understand one's own. Of course, fictional character has always had the potential to fulfill the function of proxy (as Flaubert most famously put it, "Madame Bovary, c'est moi!"), but in this class we will look at how contemporary authors are experimenting with first- and third-person perspectives to tighten the gap between past lives and the writer's own. We will read work by Kate Zambreno, Nathalie Léger, Doireann Nì Ghriofa, Marie N'Diaye, and others, exploring the craft dimensions of this genre, as well as the ethical implications in our age of identity politics. To what extent can a twenty-first-century "I" presume affinity with a figure whose lived experience was, according to most Western notions of selfhood, entirely disparate?

This online class will combine synchronous and asynchronous learning. You will receive weekly materials and assignments electronically, and as a group, we’ll check in via Zoom for discussion. In turn, we'll also engage in some "para-vital" writing of our own, with the option of sharing our work with the larger group.

Elizabeth Brogden is a writer and editor based in Cambridge, MA. Her essays, short fictions, and book reviews have appeared in various print and online journals, including Bellevue Literary Review, Full-Stop, La Piccioletta Barca, and Cleveland Review of Books. You can learn more about her work and background at www.golightlyeditorial.com or follow her on Instagram @golightlyeditorial.

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